Psalm 32:1

This psalm is one of those historically established as David's. It has long been a favourite with the greatest saints, who are the very ones that own themselves the greatest sinners. Luther referred to it as one of his special psalms. So Dr. Chalmers, who, it is said, could scarcely read its first three verses without tears filling his eyes. The compression necessary to keep this work within moderate limits renders it impossible to do more than point out how it might profitably be expanded and expounded in a course of sermons. It is headed, "a Psalm, giving instruction;" i.e. a didactic psalm - a doctrinal one, in fact, and as such is to be one of the songs of the sanctuary. Note: They fall into error who do not regard the rehearsal of Divine truth as a fitting method of sacred song. We may not only sing praise to God, but may speak "to one another in psalms, and hymns, and spiritual songs, singing with grace in our hearts to the Lord." This psalm is a grateful rehearsal of the blessedness of Divine forgiveness. We see therein -

I. FORGIVENESS NEEDED. Here, indeed, the expositor must be clear, firm, direct, swift, pointed. We have:

1. Sin committed. The Hebrew language, poor as is its vocabulary in many directions, is abundant in the terms used in connection with sin. It is and ever will remain the differential feature of the education of the Hebrew people, that they were taught so emphatically and constantly the evil of sin. For this purpose the Law was their child-guide with a view to Christ (Galatians 3:24). Of the several terms used to express sin, three are employed here. One, which denotes "missing the mark;" a second, which denotes "overstepping the mark;" a third, which denotes "crookedness or unevenness." Over and above corresponding terms in the New Testament, we have two definitions of sin. One in 1 John 3:4, "Sin is the transgression of law;" another in 1 John 5:1, "All injustice is sin." We can never show men the value of the gospel until they see the evil of sin. Some minds are most effectively reached by one aspect of truth, and others by another; but surely from one or other of these Scripture terms or phrases the preacher may prepare a set of arrows that by God's blessing will pierce some through the joints of their armour. Nor can the reality or evil of sin be fairly evaded by any plea drawn from the modern doctrine of evolution; since, even if that theory be valid, the emergence of consciousness and of moral responsibility at a certain stage of evolution is as certain a phenomenon as any other. Men know they have done wrong, and it behoves the preacher not to quit his hold of them till he has driven conviction of the evil of sin against God deeply into the soul!

2. Sin concealed. (Ver. 2.) "I kept silence," i.e. towards God. In the specific case referred to here, sin had disclosed its fearful reality by breaking out openly; it was known, yet unacknowledged. Hence:

3. Sin rankled within (ver. 2, "my bones," etc.). Remorse and self-reproach succeeded to the numbness which was the first effect of the sin. There was a reaction - restlessness seized on the guilty one. The action of a guilty conscience brings within a man the most terribly consuming of all agitation. He cannot flee from himself, and his guilt and dread pursue him everywhere (Job 15:20-25; Job 18:11; Job 20:11-29; Proverbs 28:1). Hence it is a great relief to note the next stage.

4. Sin confessed. (Ver. 5.) What a mercy that our God is one to whom we can unburden our guilt, telling him all, knowing that in the storehouse of infinite grace and love there is exhaustless mercy that wilt "multiply pardons" (Isaiah 55:7, Hebrew)!

5. Sinput away. (Ver. 2.) "In whose spirit there is no guile;" i.e. no deceit, no reserve, no concealment, no continuing in the sin which is thus bemoaned, but, at the moment it is confessed towards God, honestly and entirely putting it away. And when once the sin and guilt are thus put away before God, it will not be long ere the penitent has to recount the experience of -

II. FORGIVENESS OBTAINED AND ENJOYED. He who guilelessly puts away sin by repentance will surely find that God lovingly' puts it away by pardon (ver. 5). And as the Hebrew is ample in its terms for sin, so also is it in the varied words and phrases to express Divine forgiveness. Three of these are used here; but in the Hebrew there are, at least, ten others,

1. "Forgiven." (Ver. 1.) The Hebrew word means "lifted off;" in this case the LXX. render "remitted," but sometimes they translate the Hebrew term literally, by a word which also means "to lift off," "to lift up," "to bear," and "to bear away." (cf. John 1:29; 1 John 3:5; Matthew 9:5, 6). In Divine forgiveness, the burden of sin is lifted off from us and borne away by the Son of God; the penitent is also "let go." His indictment is cancelled, and from sin's penalty he is set free.

2. Covered; as with a lid, or a veil: put out of sight. God looks on it no more (Micah 7:18).

3. "Iniquity not imputed. It is no more reckoned to the penitent. With absolution there is complete and entire acquittal, and with the non-imputation of sin there is the imputation of righteousness (Romans 3., 4., 5.), or the full and free reception of the pardoned one into the Divine favour, in which a standing of privilege, that in his own right he could not claim, is freely accorded to him through the aboundings of Divine grace.

III. FORGIVENESS BEARING FRUIT. This psalm is itself the product of a forgiven man's pen. It would be a psychological impossibility for an unregenerate and unpardoned man ever to have written it. The psalmist's experience of forgiving love bears fruit:

1. In grateful song. (Ver. 7.) Songs of deliverance" will now take the place of consuming remorse and penitential groans.

2. In new thoughts of God. (Ver. 7.) "Thou art my Hiding-place" etc. In the God whose pardoning love he has known, he will now find a perpetual Protector and Friend.

3. In joyous declaration to others. (Vers. 1, 2.) "Blessed... blessed," etc. The emphasis is doubly intense.

(1) There is a blessedness in forgiveness itself. To have the burden of guilt lifted off, and the sentence of condemnation cancelled, what blessedness is here!

(2) There is blessedness which follows on forgiveness. New freedom. New joy in God. New ties of love. New citizenship. New heirship. New prospects. Oh! the blessedness!

4. In exhortation. (Vers. 8, 9.) We regard these as the psalmist's words, in which he uses his own experience to counsel others. Broken-hearted penitents make the best evangelists. The exhortation is threefold.

(1) He bids us not to be perverse and obstinate, i.e. in attempting to conceal our guilt; but rather to show the reason of reasonable men in confessing and abandoning it (ver. 9).

(2) He reminds us that, while resistance to God will only surround us with woes, trust in God will ensure our being encompassed with mercies (ver. 10).

(3) He bids truly sincere, upright, penitent souls - men without guile - to rejoice in God, yea, even to shout for joy, because of that forgiving love which buries all the past guilt of the penitent in the ocean of redeeming grace, and enriches the pardoned one with the heirship of everlasting life. - C.

Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.
Since the time of , seven of the psalms have borne the name of Penitential; namely, 6, 32, 38, 51, 102, 130, 143. They were used in the special additional services appointed for Lent, and were selected with reference to the sprinkling of the leper seven times, and to the command to Naaman to wash himself seven times in the Jordan; or, as others say, as corresponding to the seven deadly sins. These psalms are not all expressions of contrition for personal sin; nevertheless, they all recognize sin as the source of corruption and trouble. We may find in them every element of a true repentance according to the Gospel standard. They reveal —

I. A RECOGNITION OF THE RADICAL NATURE OF SIN. This is especially marked in the 51st. There we find the confession of a sinful nature as well as of sinful acts; the ever-living consciousness that God looks at the heart and not merely at the deed.

II. THE FEELING OF THE BURDEN AND SORROW OF SIN (Psalm 6:2, 3; Psalm 32:3, 4; Psalm 38:2-10; Psalm 102:9, 10; Psalm 51:3).

III. CONFESSION OF SIN. This involves our viewing the sin in the same way in which God views it.

IV. REPENTANCE FURTHER INVOLVES CONDUCT. The prayer for pardoning grace is accompanied with the petitions, "Cause me to know the way wherein I should walk, Teach me to do Thy will" (Psalm 143:8-10). Sinful associations are renounced, and the workers of iniquity are bidden to depart (Psalm 6:8).

V. REPENTANCE ISSUES IN INSTRUCTION. David, having been forgiven, says, "I will instruct thee and teach thee" (Psalm 32:8, 9). When God's face shall be hidden from my sins, and a clean heart shall be given me, "then will I teach transgressors thy ways" (Psalm 51:18-15).

VI. REPENTANCE ISSUES IN JOY. It is the joy of forgiveness. The man is not blessed who can forget his sins; who can divert his mind from them; who can temporarily escape their consequences. "Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven." "Thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin." From this point, the psalm is all joy. "Thy hand was heavy upon me," but now I lean upon it, and it leads me into green pastures and folds me to a Father's heart. I fear not the "floods of great waters" now. "Thou art my hiding-place," Thou from whom I strove of late to hide. Thy word, sharper than any two-edged sword, pierced me with a thousand pangs; but now "I hope in Thy word." I remembered Thee and was troubled; but now "Thou shalt preserve me from trouble." Thou, from whose voice I fled, Thou, whose heavy hand dried up the springs of song in me, Thou shalt fence me about with songs.

VII. REPENTANCE ISSUES IN WARNING. This is powerfully brought out in Psalm 32:9. The bridle which restrains the beast is often its ornament. The fact is familiar that animals have a kind of pride in the gaudy trappings which are the signs of their degradation, the proofs that they cannot be appealed to on the grounds of reason and conscience. So it is often true that a sinful man is proud of his rebellion against God, and boasts of it. If he but knew it, this is his humiliation. It stamps him as a creature which does not realize its relations to God and eternity. God would gladly deal with him as a free man, on generous terms; but if he refuses the guidance of the eye, he must take up with bit and bridle. If men will not come nigh unto God, and fall in with His gracious economy, they must be sternly restrained from interfering with it.

(M. R. Vincent, D. D.)

If the world forgives, it generally vouchsafes a kind of stinging forgiveness which perpetuates the smart of the crime. It is at no pains to "cover" the sin. We can say of one thus forgiven, "He is tolerated: tie has a new chance given him," but scarcely — "he is blessed." This psalm, on the contrary, while it is one of the saddest, is at the same time one of the most joyful of the inspired lyrics. It is no less the record of a bitter, penitential sorrow, than the expression of a heart full of praise. It comes to us to-day to tell us that the worst sinner, forgiven by God, is a happy man.

I. THE BLESSEDNESS OF FORGIVENESS. When a shipwrecked sailor has been rescued from death, and is sitting warm and dry by the fire, his first thought, his first utterance is one of congratulation. "How fortunate I am to have escaped. How thankful I am to those who saved my life." After this feeling has found vent, he will go on to tell the story of his shipwreck and of his rescue. Hence nothing could be more natural than the ordering of this psalm. David is a rescued man; and thanks. giving, and congratulation on his present security come to his lips, before he tells the story of his moral shipwreck.

1. His sin is taken away.

2. His sins are covered or hidden, and that from God; not from men. However men may comment or rail, it matters little while God says "I have blotted out as a thick cloud thy transgressions, and as a cloud thy sins."

3. He is treated as innocent. The Lord does not impute nor lay the iniquity to his charge.

II. THE RESULT OF HIS ATTEMPTS TO COVER HIS SIN. Perhaps he sought to still that secret voice which was urging him to lay bare his sin, by plunging into the business of state, or into the pleasures of his court; but all in vain. "When I kept silence my bones waxed old." The very seat of strength was invaded. His body suffered from the terrors of remorse. What an image is this that follows — the pressure of a strong hand, hampering all free activity. No joy in work or in study any more. The healthy competitions of business, the free play of social converse, the sweet interchanges of the household, all repressed and devitalized by this painful consciousness of guilt. What ails the man who was but lately so sparkling, so magnetic, so enthusiastic? "Day and night Thy hand was heavy upon me," etc.

III. THE REMEDY WHICH HE FOUND. Confession. "Well," you say, "if God knows all about my sin, why should I confess it?" God knows what you want in prayer before you ask Him, and yet you will not get it if you do not ask Him. He has conditioned forgiveness upon confession, just as He has conditioned finding upon seeking. Confession implies —

1. Viewing your sin in the same light in which God views it.

2. Renunciation.

IV. THE RESULT OF ITS APPLICATION. He first sums up the result in a single sentence: "Thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin." He has a whole catalogue of joyful consequences of his confession to present to us; but he is careful to make it perfectly clear at the outset that all these consequences are linked with forgiveness. And now what a sudden change reveals itself. The tone of the last few verses has been like the sigh of the wind through the dry valleys. Now we begin to hear the running of streams. The abject penitent, moaning day and night under God's heavy band, is transformed into a joyful singer of praises; a prophet, with a fresh lesson of God's goodness kindling on his lips.

V. A PRACTICAL LESSON FOR OUR INSTRUCTION. Christ bade Peter make use of his own terrible sifting to strengthen his brethren. David anticipates the lesson; and these words of his have been the text-book of penitent souls from his time to the present. "I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shall go;" this way of repentance and confession in which I have walked. Be not obstinate in refusing to walk therein. Heed my experience, ye who feel the pressure of God's hand, whose moisture is turned into the drought of summer.

(M. R. Vincent, D. D.)


1. Because God doth pronounce them blessed.

2. Because they are delivered from the greatest evil, and that which exposes them to the greatest misery, and which alone can deprive them of eternal happiness.

3. Because they are taken into covenant with God.(1) They are taken into God's favour.(2) They are taken into God's family.(3) They are under God's providence.(4) They have free access unto God in prayer.(5) They have communion with God in all His ordinances: and thus it is with all pardoned persons, and therefore they are blessed.

4. Because they are in a better state than Adam was in his first creation.(1) In respect of innocence.(2) In regard of the image of God, that is repaired in all those that are pardoned. — When God forgiveth their sin, He changeth their nature; and that faith which justifieth the person doth also "purify the heart" (Acts 15:9).

5. Because they shall be blessed.(1) Show what the future blessedness is, which pardoned persons shall have. They shall live and take up their eternal abode in a most blessed and glorious place (Hebrews 13:14; Hebrews 11:10). They shall have most blessed and glorious company to converse with: saints, angels, the Holy Spirit, the Lord Jesus Christ in His glory, etc. They shall attain a blessed and glorious state of perfect peace and tranquillity, wealth and plenty, honour and dignity, holiness and purity, perfect happiness and glory in soul and body.(2) Prove that pardoned sinners shall assuredly attain this future blessedness. God's decree of predestination and election. God's covenant and promise. The union of all pardoned persons unto Christ and His undertaking for them to bring them to eternal blessedness. The right which they have to eternal blessedness: justification; adoption; the certainty of all pardoned persons' perseverance in grace unto the end.(3) Show how this future eternal blessedness of heaven renders pardoned persons blessed here upon earth.

(1)They have a sight of their future blessedness, and the excellence of it.

(2)Their hopes of it, that they shall one day have possession of so great felicity.

(3)They have the beginnings of future blessedness here, in this life, in the work of grace, and sometimes foretastes and first-fruits of it, through the witness, seal, and earnest of the Spirit; and this renders them blessed in this life.


1. Some things must be believed.

(1)The doctrine of Christ's satisfaction for sin.

(2)The doctrine of justification by the righteousness of Christ.

2. Some things must be done.

(1)They must get conviction of sin.

(2)They must make confession of sin.

(3)They must by faith make application of Jesus Christ.

(4)They must forsake sin.

(5)They must make supplication and earnest prayer unto God for pardoning mercy.

(6)They must forgive others.

(T. Vincent, M. A.)


1. The word translated "transgression" seems literally to signify separation, or rending apart, or departure; and hence comes to express the notion of apostasy and rebellion. So, then, here is this thought, all sin is a going away. From what? Rather the question should be — from whom? All sin is a departure from God. And that is its deepest and darkest characteristic. And it is the one that needs to be most urged, for it is the one that we are most apt to forget. The great type of all wrongdoers is in that figure of the Prodigal Son, and the essence of his fault was, first, that he selfishly demanded for his own his father's goods; and, second, that he went away into a far country. Your sins have separated between you and God.

2. Then another aspect of the same foul thing rises before the psalmist's mind. This evil which he has done, which I suppose was the sin in the matter of Bath-sheba, was not only rebellion against God, but it was, according to our version, in the second clause, "a sin," by which is meant literally missing an aim.(1) "Man's chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy Him for ever;" and whosoever in all his successes fails to realize that end is a failure through and through, in whatever smaller matters he may seem to himself and to others to succeed. He only strikes the target in the bull's-eye who lets his arrows be deflected by no gusts of passion, nor aimed wrong by any obliquity of vision, but with firm hand and clear eye seeks and secures the absolute conformity of his will to the Father's will, and makes God his aim and end in all things.(2) But there is another aspect of this same thought, and that is that every piece of evil misses its own shabby mark. "A rogue is a round-about fool." No man ever gets, in doing wrong, the thing that he did the wrong for, or, if he gets it, he gets something else along with it that takes all the sweet taste out of it. All sin, big or little, is a blunder, and missing of the mark.

3. Yet another aspect of the ugly thing rises before the psalmist's eye. In reference to God evil is separation and rebellion; in reference to myself, it is an error and missing of my true goal; and in reference to the straight standard and law of duty, it is, according to the last of the three words for sin in the text, "iniquity," or, literally, something twisted or distorted. It is thus brought into contrast with the right line of the plain straight path in which we ought to walk. The path to God is a right line, the shortest road from earth to heaven is absolutely straight. The Czar of Russia, when railways were introduced into that country, was asked to determine the line between St. Petersburg and Moscow. He took a ruler, and drew a straight line across the map, and said, "There!" Our autocrat has drawn a line as straight, as the road from earth to heaven; and by the side of it are the crooked wandering ways in which we live.

II. THE BLESSED PICTURE OF THE REMOVAL OF THE SIN. It is "forgiven," "covered," "not imputed." The accumulation of synonyms not only sets forth various aspects of pardon, but triumphantly celebrates the completeness and certainty of the gift. As to the first, it means literally to lift and bear away a load or burden. As to the second, it means plainly enough to cover over, as one might do some foul thing, that it may no longer offend She eye or smell rank to heaven. And so a man's sin is covered over and ceases to be in evidence, as it were, before the Divine Eye that sees all things. He Himself casts a merciful veil over it and hides it from Himself. A similar idea, though with a modification in metaphor, is included in that last word, the sin is not reckoned. God does not write it down in His great book on the debit side of the man's account. And these three things, the lifting up and carrying away of the load, the covering over of the obscene and ugly thing, the non-reckoning in the account of the evil deed; these three things, taken together, do set forth before us the great and blessed truth that a man's transgressions may become, in so far as the Divine heart and the Divine dealings with him are concerned, as if non-existent.


1. The blessedness of deliverance from sullen remorse and the dreadful pangs of an accusing conscience.

2. The blessedness of a close clinging to God in peaceful trust, which will ensure security in the midst of all trials and a hiding-place against every storm. Only through forgiveness do we come into that close communion with God which ensures safety in all disasters.

3. The blessedness of a gentle guidance and of a loving obedience. "Thou shalt guide me with Thine eye." No need for force, no need for bit and bridle, no need for anything but the glance of the Father, which the child delights to obey.

4. The blessedness of exuberant gladness; the joy that comes from the sorrow according to God is a joy that will last. All other delights, in their nature., are perishable. The deeper the penitence the surer the rebound into gladness.

(A. Maclaren, D. D.)


1. He uses three words, and each word reveals a different aspect of his comprehensive conception.(1) He calls it his "transgression." The word is significant of a "breaking-loose." The figure is almost that of a horse that has broken the traces, and is bolting. The cords have been snapped. The yoke has been thrown aside. The man conceives himself as in revolt. He is a rebel, a deserter. He has broken the bands; he has discarded all discipline, and has roamed in ways of unconsidered licence.(2) He also calls it his "sin." He has deflected from the prescribed line of life. He has chosen his own end. He has missed the mark. His life "has not arrived." It is characterized by failure.(3) He also calls it his "iniquity" His life is marred by crookedness and deformity. Guilt has sunk into his faculties, and all of them have been twisted in a certain perversity. Such is the man's vivid consciousness of his own estate. He is a rebel of perverse inclinations, and wrenched by self-will into spiritual deformity.

2. Now, concerning this burning consciousness of personal sin, we are told the man "kept silence." He invited no fellowship, either on the part of man or of God. How did such secret, silent burden affect the man's life?(1) "When I kept silence my bones waxed old through my roaring all the day long." There is a wonderful intimacy between the flesh and the spirit. To sap the forces of the one drains the energy of the other. This man, with the secret, unspoken consciousness of sin, dragged along a weary body. He was continually tired.(2) "Day and night Thy hand was heavy upon me." He moved in a condition of constant depression. He felt that "the hand of the Lord" was weighing upon him! That is a pathetic word. "The hand' of the Lord" is usually a minister of succour, of lifting, of resurrection! But here the "hand of the Lord" is regarded as the minister of depression, and the man is held down in mental flatness and imprisonment.(3) "My moisture is turned into drought of summer." He was the victim of a dry, fierce heart No cool, cooling influences breathed through his soul. He was "heated hot with burning fears."

II. THE CONFESSION. The psalmist had a threefold description of sin, now he has a threefold description of its confession. "I acknowledged my sin." "Mine iniquity have I not hid." "I confessed my transgressions." The marrow of all these pregnant phrases is that the psalmist made a clean breast of it. He hid nothing from the Lord. There was no unclean thing concealed within his tent. lie opened out every secret room. He gave God all the keys. Everything was brought out and penitently acknowledged. He confessed in particulars, and not in generals. He "poured out his heart before God." He emptied it as though he was emptying a vessel in which no single unclean drop was allowed to remain. His confession was made in perfect frankness and sincerity.


1. His transgression was "forgiven" — lifted and carried away out of sight.

2. His sin was "covered." "Where sin abounds, grace doth much more abound." Grace rolls over like an immeasurable flood, and our sins are submerged beneath its mighty depths.

3. His iniquity was "net imputed." Forgiven sins are never to be counted; they will not enter into the reckoning. They will not influence the Lord's regard for us. In His love for us, forgiven sins are as though they had never been. Here, then, is the completeness of the freedom of the children of God. Sin forgiven! Sin covered! Sin no longer reckoned! It is not wonderful that this once tried, depressed, feverish soul, tasting now the delights of a gracious freedom, should cry out, "Blessed is the man!"

(J. H. Jowett, M. A.)

In the words you have an emphatical setting forth of a great and blessed privilege and a description of the persons who shall enjoy it. We notice the three expressions, "forgiven," "covered," "imputeth not," and the earnestness and vehemency which this repetition implies. As to the meaning, the transgressions forgiven tells of the relief from a heavy burden (Matthew 11:28). The "sin covered," alludes to the covering up of or removing that which is offensive out of sight (Deuteronomy 23:14). The "imputeth not iniquities" tells of God's not putting them down to our account (Matthew 6:12). The object of pardon is described under the various terms of iniquity, transgressions, sin. And the earnestness of the psalmist is because he himself has known the blessedness of God's forgiveness. The doctrine of the text is, therefore — That a great degree of our blessedness lies in our obtaining the pardon of our sins by Jesus Christ.


1. We all have a reasonable nature, and this implies a conscience, for a man can reflect upon his own actions.

2. But conscience implies a law by which good and evil are distinguished.

3. Law implies a sanction or confirmation by penalties and rewards (Deuteronomy 30:15; Psalm 7:11-13).

4. Such sanction implies a judge who will take cognizance of our conduct in regard to the law. The heathen knew this (Romans 1:32). Providence showed it (Romans 1:18). And we are to expect the coming of such judge (Acts 10:42, 43; Acts 3:19-21).

5. A judge implies a judgment day, or some time when his justice must have solemn trial, when he will reckon with the guilty (Hebrews 9:27; Acts 24:25; Acts 17:31).

6. This implies the condemnation of the guilty, unless God set up another court for their relief. For man is utterly unable to fulfil the law (Romans 8:1). "The law is weak through the flesh."

7. This God hath done in Christ and the Gospel. It is not a ease of forgiveness as between man and man, but there must be satisfaction to Divine justice. Therefore Christ hath died (Galatians 4:5; Romans 3:25, 26).

8. This being done conveniently to God's honour, we must sue out our pardon with respect to both covenants — that of nature, and that in Christ. We must bring a true repentance (1 John 1:9; 1 Corinthians 11:31). And we must thankfully accept the Lord's grace that offers pardon to us.


1. We must bear the heavy burden of our sin (Psalm 38:4; Genesis 4:13; Proverbs 18:14).

2. Sin renders us odious in the sight of God (Proverbs 13:5). "Sin is loathsome." And the sinner is so, to God, to the righteous, to the indifferent, to other wicked men, and to himself (Psalm 32:3).

3. Sin is a debt that binds the soul to everlasting punishment (Luke 12:59). How blessed, then, must be he unto whom the Lord imputeth not iniquity.


1. It restores us to God (Psalm 130:4).

2. It lays a foundation for solid peace and comfort in our own souls.

3. We are now capable of eternal life.


1. Let us bless God for the Gospel. Think of the darkness of the heathen world on this matter (Micah 6:7). And the Jews also (Hebrews 9:9).

2. Let us put in for a share of this blessedness. Pray day by day for it. Christians as well as others.

( T. Manton.)

I. TILL YOU ARE PARDONED YOU ARE NEVER BLESSED. IS he happy who is condemned to die, although he hath plentiful allowance till the day of his execution? So neither can earthly good make the sinner blessed.

II. NOTHING ELSE BUT PARDON WILL SERVE OUR TURN, Forbearance on God's part will not, for forbearance from punishment does not dissolve the obligation to punish. Respite is not pardon. Nor, either, forgetfulness on our part. They are not happy that have the least trouble, but they that have the least cause. A benumbed conscience cannot challenge this blessedness. God hath neither forgiven nor covered their sin.


1. The evils. Guilt, and therefore punishment.

2. The good. You cannot enjoy God till you are forgiven.


1. For our first entrance into it.(1) We must have repentance and faith (Acts 10:43; 11:38; Luke 24:47). Repentance respects God, to whom we return: faith, Christ, by whom we return. And these are necessary for the glory of God. It is not fitting that pardon and life should be bad without any conditions. And they are necessary, too, for our comfort.

2. For our continuance in it. The first truths are gone over again and again; and there is a new obedience (1 John 1:7). And there is daily prayer.

3. For the recovery out of grievous lapses and falls.In them there is required a particular and express repentance; and repentance and faith must be carried with respect to those four things that are in sin: culpa, the fault, reatus, the guilt, maeula, the stain and blot, and poena, the punishment.

1. For the fault in the transgression of the law, or the criminal action. See that the fault be not continued; relapses are very dangerous. A bone often broken in the same place is hardly set again. God's children are in danger of this before the breach be well made up, or the orifice of the wound be soundly closed; as Lot doubled his incest, and Samson goes in again and again to Delilah.

2. The guilt continues till serious and solemn repentance, and humiliation before God, and suing out our pardon in Christ's name. There must be a solemn humbling for the sin, and then God will forgive us. Suppose a man forbear the act, and never commit it more (as Judah forbore the act, after he had committed incest with Tamar, but it seems he repented not till she showed him the bracelets and the staff); yet with serious remorse we must beg our peace humbly upon the account of our Mediator. Therefore something must be done to take away the guilt.

3. There is the blot or evil inclination to sin again. A brand that hath been in the fire is more apt to take fire again; the evil influences of the sin continue. Now the root of sin must be mortified, it is not enough to forbear or confess a sin, but we must pull out the core of the distemper before all will be well.

4. There is the punishment. It will not be eternal. We are delivered from that. But there may be temporary evils (Psalm 89:32, 33). What, then, is our business? Humbly to deprecate these judgments. "Lord, correct me not in Thine anger," etc.

( T. Manton.)

There is a history of India, which was written by a man who never left his native land, nor set eye or foot on that distant shore; and yet, strange as it may appear, it is said to be the best work on the subject, presenting the most graphic pictures of its oriental scenery, the most satisfactory history of its conquests and its conquerors, the best account of the manners, and customs, and habits of its people, with their variety of races, and tongues, and castes, and religions. In some such way the beauties of Christianity have been portrayed; the pictures being not so much, or rather not at all, a transcript of the artist's feelings — what his own eyes have seen and his own heart has felt — not the expression of a Christian's experience, but the triumphs of a poet's fancy. And so the preacher may, after all, be but a painter, and saving others, he may be himself a castaway. A man who can go to the pulpit, or a man who can stand on the level of other men, and say, "Arise, for I have seen the land, and behold it is very good," can speak with a point and a power which no fancy or genius can bestow. Such was the position of the man who expressed the sentiment of my text. The world has seen few poets like the royal psalmist; yet here is not a flight of the poet's fancy, but the expression of a good man's experience. The blessedness of my text is not a thing that David fancied; it is a thing that David felt. And he gained this blessedness by going to God for it, confessing his sin and finding forgiveness. He went as the prodigal, saying, "I have sinned," and he gratefully acknowledges, "Thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin."

I. THIS BLESSEDNESS IS ATTAINABLE BY US NOW. Sin is a terrible thing, for it incurs the wrath of God. Man's wrath can do but little in his favour either. A few feet of earth above our heads, and what is the world's smile or frown then? But God's wrath and favour are very different things. They stretch on into and throughout eternity. How blessed, then, must be His favour, how terrible His wrath! But, with His favour, what need we fear?

II. THE EXTENT OF THIS BLESSEDNESS. Transgression forgiven, sin covered, iniquity not imputed. How is all this accomplished? Not in the way of the unjust steward, by making a composition, as merchants do. God demands all. ,And yet we are saved. Christ paid the penalty, and thus man is saved the punishment. This is the very palladium and pillar of the believer's peace. All is forgiven, all covered.

III. BLESSEDNESS IS WHAT WE ALL SEEK AFTER, AND IT IS FOUND HERE. This alone is true blessedness. Nothing else is worthy of the name of happiness. I know as well as you do, that there is a kind of happiness in sin; I know as well as you do, that without a sense of forgiveness there is a kind of pleasure a man or woman may enjoy; but do you call that happiness? I do not. Do you call that insect happy, that in ever-lessening circles goes round and round the candle, till it plunge and perish in the flame? I have read of children that with merry glee, add light feet, and buoyant laughter, chased each other upon the sinking deck, when brave men had stripped to swim, and cowards lay down to die. Call ye them happy? Happy! "I said of laughter, It is madness; and of mirth, What doeth it?" But the blessedness told of in our text, that never fades.

(S. Guthrie, D. D.)

I. HERE IS A MAN PAINTING A PICTURE OF THE EVIL WHICH HAD BEEN HIS CURSE. When a man has been rescued from hell, he speaks in no mincing fashion of its horrors.

1. "Transgression" signifies departure, the dissolving of a union, apostasy.

2. "Sin" means literally an error, missing an aim. Not only had he rebelled against God, but he had fatally missed the mark to which his whole effort and energy should have been directed. "A man never gets what he hoped for by doing wrong; or, if he seems to do so, he gets something more that spoils it all. He pursues after the fleeing form that seems so fair, and, when he reaches her side and lifts her veil, eager to embrace the temptress, a hideous skeleton grins and gibbers at him."

3. "Iniquity," literally, is something twisted or distorted — warped from the straight line of right. All sin is a turning aside, a going out of the way, an entrance on by-paths which can never be safe.

II. HERE IS A MAN POINTING OUT THE WRETCHEDNESS WHICH HIS SIN AND SILENCE CONCERNING IT HAD ENTAILED UPON HIM (vers. 3, 4). A. weird picture, a realistic illustration of the misery of unrepentant remorse. "Be sure your sin will find you out;" and what a finding out it is! The sinner expected to conjure up flowers: he has conjured up serpents; he expected thrills of pleasure: he has felt shocks of pain; he expected to find peace: he has let slip the dogs of war; he hoped to find liberty: he has drawn a heavy chain about his life.

1. Sin always means misery. It is like the poison-tree in travellers' stories: tempting weary men to rest beneath its thick foliage, and insinuating death into the limbs that relax in the fatal coolness of its shade. It is like the apples of Sodom: fair to look upon, but turning to acrid ashes on the unwary lips.

2. Sin of itself is bad enough, but sin unconfessed is hell on earth. Better confess the deed than allow it to darken your soul's windows, harden your heart, and spread its contagion throughout your being.

III. HERE IS A MAN REVEALING THE PATH WHICH LED TO THE THRONE OF DIVINE FORGIVENESS (ver. 5). Thank Heaven that there is such a path, and that it is accessible to every sin-damaged life. That path has been provided by a loving God; it is the path of repentance, the King's highway. Have we trodden that path? Have we responded to the summons of God's Nathan, as he has poured the light divine upon our eyes?

IV. HERE IS A MAN PROCLAIMING THE MASTERY AND REMOVAL OF HIS SIN BY GOD'S GREAT GRACE (vers. 1, 2). The three words he employs are delightfully expressive.

1. "Forgiveness" means literally the bearing away of a load. Sin is like the burden on the pilgrim's back in the Immortal Allegory. It crushes the soul, weakens the life, pampers the spirit. But the grace of God causes the burden to fall from the soul, emancipates it from the crushing load.

2. "Covered" means the interment of the evil thing. It is a nuisance, an annoyance, an eyesore, a foul, disgusting thing. So God digs a grave for it, and buries it out of sight.

3. "Not to impute" means that our wickedness is no longer chargeable to us. God will be silent concerning it. The account is settled

V. HERE IS A MAN EXULTING IN THE BLESSEDNESS WHICH HIS FORGIVENESS HAD SECURED TO HIM. "O the blessedness of the saved one," he shouts. The words are a burst of thankful rapture. His very soul dances for joy; and no wonder: the change in himself was so very real, the transition so marvellous. It was a passage from death unto life, from winter to summer, from darkness to light, from hell to heaven; the gnawings of conscience exchanged for the peace of God, his sullen silence giving place to spontaneous, irrepressible and hearty song, his very self becoming rejuvenated. Surely, such a change must mean blessedness!

(Joseph Pearce.)


1. The being and inherency of sin is not taken away. Though not imputed, yet it is inherent in us. Remission and sanctification are distinct acts, and wrought in a distinct manner.

2. The nature of sin is not taken away. It is not a change of the native malice of the sin, but a non-imputation of it to the offender.

3. The demerit of sin is not taken away. Pardon frees us from actual condemnation, but not, as considered in our own persons, from the desert of condemnation.

4. The guilt of sin, or obligation to punishment, is taken away by pardon.


1. It is His act. 'Tis an offended God who is a forgiving God; that God whose name thou hast profaned, whose patience thou hast abused, whose laws thou hast violated, whose mercy thou hast slighted, whose justice thou hast dared, and whose glory thou hast stained.

2. He only can do it. Forgiveness belongs to God as —

(1)Proprietor. He has a greater right to us than we have to ourselves.

(2)Sovereign, He is Lord over us, as we are His creatures.

(3)Governor of us, as we are parts of the world.

3. It is an act of His mercy. Not our merit. Though there be a conditional connection between pardon and repentance and faith, yet there is no meritorious connection ariseth from the nature of those graces, but remission flows from the gracious indulgence of the promise.

4. It is the act of His justice. There is a composition of Judge and Father in this act: free grace on God's part, but justice upon the account of Christ.

5. It is the act of His power. It is a greater work to forgive, than to prevent the commission of sin; as it is a greater work to raise a dead man than to cure a sick man: one is a work of art, the other belongs only to Omnipotence.


1. On God's part, by Christ.

(1)By His death.

(2)By His resurrection.

2. On our part, by faith. This is as necessary in an instrumental way, as Christ in a meritorious way (Acts 26:18).

3. This forgiveness shows —

(1)God's willingness to pardon.

(2)The certainty of forgiveness.

(3)The extent of It (John 1:29).

(4)The continuance of it.

(5)The worth of it (Acts 20:28).


1. Perfect in respect of state. God retains no hatred against a pardoned person. He never imputes sin formally, because he no more remembers it, though virtually he may, to aggravate the offence a believer hath fallen into after his justification. So Job possessed the sins of his youth. And Christ tacitly put Peter in remembrance of iris denial of Him. The grant is complete here, though all the fruits of remission are not enjoyed till the day of judgment, and therefore in Scripture sin is said then to be forgiven. 'Tis a question whether believers' sins will be mentioned at the day of judgment.

2. In respect of the objects. Sinful nature, sinful habits, sinful dispositions, pardoned at once, though never so heinous for quality or quantity.

3. In respect of duration (Colossians 2:14, 15).


1. The greatest evil is taken away, and the dreadful consequences of it.

2. The greatest blessings are conferred.

(1)The favour of God.

(2)Access to God.

(3)Peace of conscience.

(4)It sweetens all mercies.

(5)It sweetens all afflictions. Uses —

1. An unpardoned man is a miserable man.

(1)There must either be pardon or punishment.

(2)You can call nothing an act of God's love towards you, while you remain unpardoned.

(3)All the time thou livest unpardoned, thy debts mount the higher.

(4)It is that God who would have pardoned thee if thou wouldst have accepted of it, who will condemn thee if thou dost utterly refuse it.

2. Pardon of sin may make thee hope for all other blessings.

(1)If once pardoned, thou wilt be always pardoned.

(2)Thou art above the reach of all accusations.

(3)There will be a solemn justification of thee at the last day.

(4)Faith doth interest us in this, though it be weak.

3. Consider whether your sins are pardoned. The true signs are —

(1)Sincerity in our walk.

(2)Mourning for sin.

(3)Fearfulness of sin.


(5)Forgiving others.

(6)Affectionate love to God and Christ.

(S. Charnock, B. D.)


1. The wrath of God.

2. The curse of the law.

3. An accusing conscience.

4. The fear of death.

5. The awfulness of eternity.


1. Filial contemplation of God.

2. Happy communion with God.

3. Bright views of Providence.

4. Alleviation in sickness.

5. Comfort in death.

6. Acquittal at the judgment bar.

7. Glory throughout eternity.

(H. Law, M. A.)

We must every one herein place our happiness, even in God's pardoning sin, and accordingly set our hearts and affections upon it, longing after this assurance above all things in the world. If a malefactor were condemned, and at the place of execution, what is it that would make him happy? What wisheth he above the world? only a pardon from his Prince: gold and silver, hinds and honours, can do him no good; only a pardon is the most welcome thing in the world. This is every man's case — we are traitors and rebels to God, our sins have proclaimed us rebels through heaven and earth, the law hath condemned us, we are going on to execution, and every day nearer than other, wherein then ought we to place our happiness, if we well weighed our estate, but in a gracious and free pardon? We would strive for pardon as for life and death. Miserable men they be, that place their felicity in anything else. For consider, that notwithstanding —

1. The greatest part of men place their happiness in wealth, pleasure, honour; and these carry all their hearts: yet —(1) This is an earthly and sensual, and far from Christian happiness, which cannot leave a man unhappy in the end, as all these do.(2) The most wicked ones that the world hath had have enjoyed the greatest outward prosperity.(3) The most dear servants of God have been strangers in the world, and met with the strangest entertainment.(4) Those whose portion hath been outwardly most prosperous, yet never thought themselves happy out of God's mercy pardoning sin. An example in David: lie had riches, honour, pleasure, a crown, kingdom, subjects, treasures, but did he place his felicity in these things? No, but in the forgiveness and covering of sins; in whose steps we must tread.(5) He that would build a firm house, must lay a sure foundation, and wilt thou lay the foundation of thy happiness in the dust? Lay it in wealth, they have wings; and when they fly away, so doth thy happiness: why dost thou trust a fugitive servant? Lay it in pleasures, it will end in sorrow; and the apostle faith, it makes a man as corpse living, dead while he liveth. Lay it in honour, what a vanishing thing is that, like the footsteps of a ship in the sea, carried with a strong gale? Yea, lay it anywhere but in God and His assured mercies, it will prove a tottering happiness, and the fall of such a happy man shall be great.

2. Others think themselves most happy in the committing of sin, and practice of their iniquity; and these are most miserable captives to the devil, so far from thinking their happiness to stand in the pardon of sin, as that they place it in the practice of it. Hence it is that monsters of men, devils incarnate, profess to swear, quarrel, drink, riot, and take them the greatest enemies to their happiness, that would help to pull them out of the snares of the devil. I would know what other happiness the devil hath, than incessantly to sin against God, and draw so many as he can into his own damnation; which express image he hath stamped on numbers, marked to destruction.

(T. Taylor, D,D.)

The Lord imputes not, that is, the Spirit of the Lord, the Lord the Spirit, the Holy Ghost, suffers not me to impute to myself those sins, which I have truly repented. The over-tenderness of a bruised and a faint conscience may impute sin to itself when it is discharged, and a seared and obdurate conscience may impute none when it abounds; if the Holy Ghost work, he rectifies both; and if God do inflict punishments after our repentance and the seals of our reconciliation, yet He suffers us not to impute those sins to ourselves, or to repute those corrections, punishments, as though He had not forgiven them, or as though He came to an execution after a pardon, but that they are laid upon us medicinally, and by way of prevention, and precaution against his future displeasure. This is that peace of conscience, when there is not one sword drawn: this is that meridional brightness of the conscience, when there is not one cloud in our sky. I shall not hope that original sin shall not be imputed, but fear that actual sin may; not hope that my dumb sins shall not, but my crying sins may; not hope that my apparent sins, which have therefore induced in me a particular sense of them, shall not, but my secret sins, sins that I am not able to return and represent to mine own memory, may: for this "non imputabit" hath no limitation; God shall suffer the conscience thus rectified to terrify itself with nothing.

(John Donne, D. D.)

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